Bristol has overtaken London as the UK’s leading “smart city” according to the second UK Smart Cities Index, commissioned by Huawei UK and conducted by Navigant Consulting. The report also highlighted the growing importance of public-private partnerships to foster collaboration and drive smart city initiatives. Of particular note were partnerships with local universities, but businesses and other organisations such as health authorities were also key drivers.

The report is based on evaluations of 20 cities and their strategies, key projects and overall readiness in using digital technology to improve crucial civic services from transport infrastructure to healthcare.
Bristol and London were named as “leaders”, with the south west city taking the top spot. The most improved city is Manchester, which has climbed two places to third, while Cambridge has entered the top ten despite not featuring in last year’s report. The report also names 12 “contender” cities which are: Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Milton Keynes, Glasgow, Nottingham, Peterborough, Cambridge, Oxford, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Newcastle.
Bristol’s move up the rankings is a direct result of it taking significant strides to extend its innovation programmes and more closely integrate those initiatives into city strategy. The Bristol Is Open project provides a large scale connectivity testbed and the new City Operations Centre ensures that services are effectively implemented. The city also leads in data access, energy innovation and community engagement.
London’s smart city plans have evolved since the 2016 Index to focus on data-driven policy initiatives and an ambitious new environmental plan. There has also been considerable progress in several London boroughs, notably in the ambitious Digital Greenwich programme. The appointment of a chief digital officer is expected to accelerate London’s development in coming months.
The important role of partners such as the Future Cities Catapult, Innovate UK, the Scottish Smart Cities initiative, academic institutions and the private sector is also emphasised as key to driving smart cities progress. Central government support is also beneficial to smart cities programmes, with the report urging central government to underwrite risk, address procurement issues and support collaboration.